Goldenrod Ball Galls

Some of the most familiar galls in eastern North America are the spherical ones on goldenrod, which are caused by a fruit fly, Eurosta solidaginis (Tephritidae).  (Tephritid fruit flies have nothing to do with the tiny “fruit flies” common in kitchens, which are in the family Drosophilidae.)

Gall of Eurosta solidaginis (Tephritidae) in a goldenrod stem.

Each gall contains a single plump, juicy larva, which overwinters inside the gall.  Downy woodpeckers and chickadees often peck holes in these galls in the winter to go after this tasty morsel.  I collected five goldenrod ball galls on March 20, and on April 25 flies emerged from two of them–one male and one female.

Eurosta solidaginis (~7 mm) and its exit hole on a goldenrod ball gall.

The method of emergence is the same as for the agromyzid flies discussed here.  I missed seeing these flies emerge, but here is a fantastic shot showing the face balloon (ptilinum) fully extended.

When I had reasonable indoor shots of the flies, I took them outside for some more natural-looking shots:

Eurosta solidaginis, male.

Eurosta solidaginis, female (note the ovipositor).

Detail of the female's fully extended ovipositor.

A portrait of the female, highlighting her rainbowy eyes.

There is a whole website devoted to these galls and their ecology here, and this page on BugGuide.Net summarizes the gall makers, parasitoids, and other insect associates of these and other goldenrod galls.

(Added May 3) Here is a third fly, with partially deflated ptilinum, which didn’t make it all the way out of its gall:

About Charley Eiseman

I am a freelance naturalist, endlessly fascinated by the interconnections of all the living and nonliving things around me. I am the lead author of Tracks & Sign of Insects and Other Invertebrates (Stackpole Books, 2010), and continue to collect photographs and information on this subject. These days I am especially drawn to galls, leaf mines, and other plant-insect interactions.
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4 Responses to Goldenrod Ball Galls

  1. These are really great photographs!

  2. Very nice views of this fly. The ovipositor is amazing, it must be a hypodermic needle.

  3. Pingback: Natural events, November 2015 | Chert Hollow Farm, LLC

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